By Martin Wroe & Malcolm Doney
Given its recent history, it is remarkable to see the progress
Rwanda has made towards reversing the economic and social
consequences of the 1994 genocide in such a short time. A
decade on, many in Rwanda believe that the country is on the
COMING TO TERMS WITH THE PAST:
President Paul Kagame lights a torch in commemoration
of the 1994 genocide. Rwanda has come a long way since.
There has been rapid progress at increasing access to education
– basic education is free and compulsory according to
the new constitution. More than 80 per cent of primary-school-age
children are now enrolled in school, with the Government announcing
plans to expand basic education to nine years and remove fees
for lower secondary schooling – a huge achievement given
that so many teachers were killed or fled.
There is still a long way to go – drop out rates are
high and only five per cent of the very poorest children go
to school. The country has also made strides in achieving
gender equity in education – yet boys remain better
off in terms of secondary education.
This is ironic since women are playing a particularly significant
role in rebuilding the country – in the new Parliament,
39 of the 80-member Chamber of Deputies are women –
a proportion that beats every other country in the world.
Coffee, the main export, is selling on the world market again,
albeit at the lowest price in decades. And the tourists are
coming back, principally to see Rwanda’s unique community
of wild mountain gorillas.
“People are now beginning to feel that security is
returning,” explains Yvette Mujwaneza, who works with
Asoferwa – Association de Solidarite des Femmes Rwandaises
– an organisation which helps women and children traumatised
by the genocide. “It is a slow transformation, but it
is happening, the feeling that perhaps this will not happen
Rwanda’s historic lack of education was a key factor
in the Hutu elite’s ability to persuade thousands of
ordinary people to unquestioningly massacre their Tutsi neighbours.
One way of reducing the potential for a repeat is rapid expansion
“Our biggest success has been in training so many new
teachers,” explains Eric Karimba, director of primary
schooling at the Ministry of Education. Once children have
received an education, he says, “They cannot so easily
be persuaded to do bad things”.
Rwanda’s next challenge is to ensure that the quality
of teaching and educational resources goes up commensurately.
Ten years ago, adds Balthazar Nsenjeyumva (the principal)
at Groupe de la Sale teacher training college, education was
“only for the privileged class”. Today, education
is “becoming something for everyone.”
|FREE FOR ALL: Rwanda’s children are benefiting
from the country’s free primary education policy.
His school lost scores of teachers during the genocide, either
killed or fled the country, but today staff numbers are high
again – and students who once feared and distrusted
each other, now get on well.
And education is about so much more than learning, explains
Sister Annunciet, headteacher of Groupe Scolaire de Notre
Dame de Bon Conceil: for example, young girls who were traditionally
“suppressed” in Rwanda, now have a much clearer
idea of what their rights are.
“Now women are better organised and the country is
realising that educating girls is vital – when you teach
a girl about good diet in school, she goes home and teaches
her mother in the village.” And, says Hope Tumukunde,
women’s district officer for the Kigali rural area,
given even a rudimentary education women will grasp opportunities
to take a decisive role in public life. “Women often
say to me that if they’d been in charge, the genocide
would never have happened. The government has provided the
guidelines for women’s participation and now they are
saying ‘why not?”
But neither education nor gender equity can transform Rwanda
by itself, says Pascal Rwayitare, director of education for
the Myumbe Province – the country’s economy has
to take off, agriculture and industry have to develop, tourists
have to see more than genocide memorials and gorillas.
The legacy of the genocide means that Rwanda faces far greater
challenges than simply those of any other poor country with
scarce land and growing population. Enormous funding and resource
needs spring directly from the genocide – assistance
to survivors, orphans, traumatised children, children-headed
households, violated women with HIV-AIDS, the heavy costs
of the justice system and resettling millions of refugees
and internally displaced persons.
And yet, given what they have endured, the people of this
country are making real progress. Healing the traditional
enmities is at the heart of it. The government is providing
a lead. As Tumukunde says, “We now have leadership which
doesn’t first ask who you are, but asks what your capacity
“Today in Rwanda”, says Pacifique Rutaganda,
a custodian of the genocide memorial site at Ntamara who saw
his family decimated, “We are becoming one people –
Rwandans – not Hutu or Tutsi. It is when you divide
people that you have a war ”.
From ‘Developments’, a DFID quarterly magazine.